Track nationals has been the biggest target of my season since mid-last year, last year, i went and wasn't able to manage anything more than 16th. Immediately afterwards, i decided when I went back, I'd be on the podium at some point. this year there were 52 other kids, including kids from specialized, garmin, and hincapie. So lets see how it went:
Sprints: This was the first event of the week, and it definitely let a bit of air out of my tires. In the 200 meter qualifier, it all stated off well. I was the second man out, and set a pr time, and one that would have qualified about 5th last year. As the better sprinters started to leave the gates however, it became painfully obvious i was not going to qualify for this event. i ended up 12th. Fortunately, i had a points race coming up to distract me.
Points: This and the pursuit were clearly outlined as my best events. Where else can you win with little or no sprint? i easily qualified for the finals, then after some words of encouragement from my parents and Jon Fraely, i took to the start line. I made sure to line up at the front, knowing that for the first few laps, the pack would spread out over the whole track and move fairly slowly. I still got boxed in, but i managed to sit second from the front on the rail, behind a hincape rider. the pack was a solid wall up the track until the first sprint, and when it engaged, i stayed calm on hincape kid's wheel, and let him drag me to the front of the group. i came around him with 50m to go to snag second in the first sprint. I receded into the pack for a few laps, then with a few to go until the next sprint, attacked. I very quickly realized my legs were not completely recovered from the previous heat, so after snagging the points, i shut it down. For the next few sets of sprints, i sat in the pack, leaving it to specialized and Hincapie to cover any moves. then, sensing a lull in the speed, i wound up another attack, and flew off the front. Sam, who was sitting on the front, saw my attack, and threw a hard block, shutting down any kind of chase until i had a safe gap. I looked up at the lap counter, and realized that 1. i had no idea when the next sprint was and 2. my legs didn't feel any better on the second attack. Using a lot of "shut up legs" and a lot of HTFU, i crouched into the t-rex position, and set too it. way too many laps later, the bell for points rang, and lucky me, i was still solo off the front. i swept up the points easily and pulled up the track. Unfortunately, there's no rest for the wicked, and soon after i got back to the group, garmin went on the attack. i followed, and was joined by two specialized kids, both with multiple national titles. we soon formed one of the hardest breaks I've been in, even dropping garmin. Specialized stayed at the front of the 3 man group, controlling it, until, with half a lap to points, they both mysteriously pulled up-track and let me sweep up another 5 points with no fight. soon after, my supply of jens magic ran out, and specialized started to gap me. Fortunately, that was quickly replaced by Italian intimidation, as Emanuele yelled at me from the side to get on. I reattached to the group with help from a bridging rider with 4 to go in the race. we got on soon after, but this time, specialized meant business. they led out their man Gage Hecht, who has a reputation for winning everything. I ended up with 3rd in the last sprint. As we crossed the line, i had no idea where i came, so i asked Emanuele as i rolled past on the cool-down lap. His look filled in what i couldn't hear. I had won by 8 points over my nearest challenger. I spent the rest of the day getting hugs from everyone i knew in the infield. Unfortunately, since USAC does not do individual events, i did not receive a jersey, and would have to continue winning events to receive my precious. i did get s shiny medal though!!!!
Pursuit: the individual pursuit is a 3 km tt on the track, where two people start opposite each other, in opposite directions, hence the pursuit. I got the last heat, which as you know, means you're the most bad-ass rider in the event. When the gun went off, i made sure not to go out too fast, and indeed, my first kilometer was the 10th slowest on the day. But i soon made up the time, finishing in 2nd, 2 seconds behind specialized's Gage Hecht, and only half a second ahead of third. The top 5 or 6 riders were all within a few seconds of each other, proving that indeed, aero is everything. with a pair of gloves, or a 50mm instead of 90mm front wheel, i would have been 3rd or 4th instead of 2nd. Fortunately, me and my aerodynamics were still leading the omnium by a precarious 3 points.
Scratch: This event has always been my weakness. Its the most simple race on the track, first across the line wins. "its just a crit on the track" Bill Barnes and many other people told me, problem is, IM NOT THAT GOOD AT CRITS!!!!!!!, that's why i do track. Oh well, as i took the line, with the velodrome playing "lose yourself" i decided i was going to be good at track crits. As we went out, it was clear i would not get a breakaway. If i went without specialized, they chased me down, and if i went with specialized, they shut down the break so Gage could make up ground in the omnium. finally, i was attacked-out, and decided to trust the pack to chase anything, and the sprinters to beat Gage. besides being body checked into the apron (held it up!!), the middle of the race was pretty uneventful, until gage attacked. I was too far back to get him, and specialized immediately used their whole team to shut down any chase. I tried to jump for 2nd with one to go, but got swamped in turn 3, and ended up in tenth. In the omnium, i was tied for second, with the best 500 racer in the nation, going into the 500. Johnny Khufal grabbed 3rd however, so we still had something to celebrate in the CVC tent.
-Pursuit: There were 6 teams in our field, a pretty good showing, especially since they didn't combine age groups this year. I led out our team, and everything went really well. Sam held the speed, Johnny didn't accelerate like crazy as soon as he hit the front, i took double pulls, and Luke had a great last lap, that got us the fast time with one team to go. Unfortunately, that team was specialized, and they wasted no time winning the event, even without their fast man Gage.
-Sprint: Someone foolishly gave me the responsibility of registering our team, so when Shrek and Friends took the start line, we had expectations of a medal. mostly because there were 5 teams and 5 medals. Unfortunately, Samuele unclipped twice, and we were not allowed to ride.
this was the final event of the omnium, and i was all but locked into 3rd. to move up, id have to get 1st or 2nd in my worst event by far, and to move down, the guy in 4th would have to do the same. Due to rain, it was 10 before i left in the second to last heat. Sure enough, i slotted into 16th place, ahead of 4th place. The next heat, the top sprinter in the field, Domonic Suozzi blew away the field to take the win in the 500 and the omnium.
I was a bit disappointed to not get the jersey, but i still got 4 medals, and beat some very strong jr development teams. Overall, it was a great cap to an already amazing track season, and with a few big races still to come, hopefully it wont have to be the cap.